Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021 | 2 a.m.
Derek Carr was locked in. Josh Jacobs scored two touchdowns. Maxx Crosby had a sack.
Memories of the Raiders knocking off the Chiefs to snap their archrival’s 13-game win streak last season often revolve around their stars, but the upset took big-time contributions from players all the way down the roster.
Practice-squad defensive end Chris Smith sacked Patrick Mahomes. Reserve safety Jeff Heath had a fourth-quarter interception. Sparsely used running back Jalen Richard caught four passes.
Unlikely heroes like the latter group will need to emerge again if the Raiders want to defeat the Chiefs for the first time at Allegiant Stadium when their Sunday Night Football game kicks off a 5:20 p.m.
Below are four such under-the-radar Raiders who might need to have a big game for the team to keep pace in the crowded AFC West standings.
Cornerback Brandon Facyson
The long-limbed veteran has been a godsend to the Raiders ever since they claimed him off the Chargers’ practice squad going into a Week 5 game against the Bears. He’s solidified the outside corner spot opposite Pro Bowl-worthy Casey Hayward amid a cluster injury at the position.
But teams continue to challenge him, and there’s no reason to believe the Chiefs will be any different.
Opposing quarterbacks have targeted Facyson 22 times in the three games, including a pair of starts in the last two contests, that he’s registered any defensive snaps. He’s allowed only 10 catches on those attempts for 109 yards and no touchdowns, strong numbers but still a small sample far from significant enough to draw any sweeping conclusions.
It’s the nature of the NFL that a relatively unproven player like Facyson will keep getting tested, and even with the recent struggles of the Chiefs’ offense, this looks like his toughest assignment yet. Former MVP Patrick Mahomes represents a major step up from the trio of Daniel Jones, Jalen Hurts and Teddy Bridgewater that Facyson has faced so far as a Raider.
Defensive tackle Damion Square
Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley strongly believes in switching in and out a large group of defensive tackles, and he just lost a key part of that rotation with Darius Philon going to injured reserved.
When asked earlier this week who would take over Philon’s average of roughly 27 snaps per game when active, Bradley didn’t even let the question finish before he started expressing confidence in Square. Like Facyson, Square played under Bradley with the Chargers before the Raiders claimed him off a practice squad (the Bears’) earlier this season.
He’s played in three games with the Raiders, and though he hasn’t been quite as impactful as Philon, Square did register two tackles and a half-sack in a win at the Broncos.
The Chiefs’ offensive line is one of the most vulnerable parts of their team, and the Raiders had success attacking it from all angles in last year’s win. Square will now play a major role in the interior generating pressure and filling gaps.
Tight end Foster Moreau
After signing DeSean Jackson this week, the Raiders aren’t nearly as short at wide receiver as they were a week ago against the Giants. Jackson has put in overtime all week to get up to speed on the offense, but the playbook will still be limited to him in his Raiders debut against the Chiefs.
He’s not yet integrated into all of Las Vegas’ packages meaning, much like last week’s game in New York, the Raiders will likely often split out Darren Waller and use him as a receiver. That’s always been a wrinkle of the Raiders’ offense, but they utilized it more frequently against the Giants and Waller responded with seven catches for 92 yards.
It should have theoretically opened up opportunities for Moreau, but the third-year receiver didn’t register a single target. Perhaps the Raiders were waiting to use Moreau-specific looks against the Chiefs.
There are certainly such calls in the playbook, as Moreau has occasionally flashed big-play ability. He’s also one of the better blocking tight ends in the NFL, so he’s valuable even when he’s not catching passes.
All together, Moreau is one of the most underrated players on the Raiders roster, and it’s only a matter of time before that comes across in a big way in a game.
Right tackle Brandon Parker
Parker might be Facyson’s offensive counterpart for this game as the Chiefs figure to challenge him repeatedly.
Las Vegas’ offensive line has gotten better since it slid the former third-round pick into the starting lineup but most of the breakdowns that have ensued up front in the last four games have been his doing. The right side of the line is the Raiders’ weakness as rookie Alex Leatherwood has also continued to struggle in the guard spot next to Parker.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, have never been more confident about the left side of their defensive line that will go up against Parker and Leatherwood on every play. They traded for former Charger/Steeler Melvin Ingram two weeks ago and slotted him into the edge spot while pushing Chris Jones, who has the team lead with three sacks, inside where he’s more comfortable.
Kansas City defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has hinted that Jones could move all around against the Raiders this week so expect to see a lot of stunts and other moves between him and Ingram.
Carr will need time to be able to put together a line like last year’s 347-yard, 3-touchdown performance in Kansas City. It might be on Parker more than anyone to give him that time.